Amy McQuire (text) and Matt Chun (illustrator), Day Break, Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing, January 2021, 24 pp, RRP $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781760508159
Day Break is a poignant and timely story that obliquely, yet profoundly, contrasts non-Indigenous celebrations of Australia Day (beach, barbie, flag, merchandise) with Indigenous culture and truth-telling.
The story is told from the perspective of a young girl living in two worlds: the indigenous world, where the day is one of remembering and mourning, and the world of her school, which teaches her otherwise:
My teacher says January 26 is when we celebrate the settlement of Australia. She says white men discovered our country. But Dad says we were already here. For tens of thousands of years.
The story gently unfolds as a multigenerational conversation between the young girl, her father, and her Nan, who they take to Country on 26 January. Strengthened by each other’s presence, and the power of their stories, the family moves through a shifting landscape to where their spirit has always been. In the words of the girl’s Nan: Our Country sings to us. It brings us home.
Written by Darumbal and South Sea Islander journalist, Amy McQuire, this 2022 CBCA Notable title is about much more than 26 January, also referencing the invasion of white settlers and the Stolen Generation. The book doesn’t seek to apportion blame and speaks with grace of a more hopeful and inclusive future.
For First Nations families, 26 January signifies struggle, resistance, and survival. Like a deep breath, Day Break envelops you. Illustrator Matt Chun’s evocative watercolours create depth of meaning, drawing the reader further into this important story.
A book that should be read in every Australian school.
Reviewed by Maura Pierlot